Venizelos bids for more time

In his first speech on the campaign trail on Thursday, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos said that he would push for the European Union and International Monetary Fund to grant the country an extra year to meet its fiscal targets.

Venizelos?s address came moments after IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde stressed the importance of Greece implementing the fiscal adjustment program it had agreed with its lenders as part of the country?s second bailout.

Speaking at an indoor arena in the Athens neighborhood of Nea Smyrni, Venizelos slammed the so-called ?anti-memorandum? parties, which oppose the terms of Greece?s new bailout, but said that if PASOK is part of a coalition government after the May 6 elections, he would attempt to convince the EU and the IMF to give the country more time to meet the conditions of the new loan agreement.

?In June, Greece has to decide which measures it will implement to reduce spending by 11 billion euros by the end of the adjustment period,? he told PASOK supporters. ?It falls upon us to decide this and we propose that the country push for something it can achieve easily: adjustment not over two years until 2014 but over three years, until 2015. The adjustment should be softer, more friendly for citizens and more friendly on growth.?

PASOK and New Democracy have run into problems this week in drawing up their candidate lists, with some hopefuls rejecting the chance to stand. ND announced its list on Wednesday but at least one candidate stepped aside yesterday. PASOK finalized its list last night.

A few hours before Venizelos?s speech, Lagarde told journalists in Washington that ?implementation, implementation, implementation? of the fiscal program was the only option for Greece.

?Over the last six months, we have devoted a lot of time to issues relating to Greece,? said Lagarde. ?A lot of things have happened in Greece since last September? the conditions we set with the troika have been implemented, laws have been passed. But I will insist on my previous response: implementation, implementation, implementation.? Lagarde added that more work needed to be done in terms of collecting revenues and taxes.